The U.S. manufacturing sector is experiencing a significant shortage of workers with a background in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields, regardless of whether those employees are high school or college educated1, and this demand for a STEM-educated workforce is only increasing. As the distinction between factory labor and IT continues to blur in plants all over the world, more and more employees are required to have coding experience, mechanical engineering skills, or a higher-level of technological savvy than was previously necessary on the shop floor. For many in the industry, this shift in the nature of manufacturing work seems daunting. However, the pros of technological advancements in the workplace are many and worth serious consideration even from those leery of changing job markets.
Make Manufacturing Safer, Not Harder
Manufacturing work often poses serious safety hazards in the workplace that companies spend significant portions of their budgets paying for in the form of safety training, insurance premiums, medical costs, and occasionally lawsuits. Thankfully, because of the application of STEM in manufacturing, some of the most up-and-coming technological advancements have the potential to create safer workplaces for employees, and less costly safety budgets for businesses. From augmented reality systems signaling unsafe environmental changes on the shop floor, to drones and self-driving equipment handling corrosive or volatile substances in lieu of human hands2, advancements in STEM have far more diverse applications than simply making manufacturing work less labor intensive. As engineers we have the unique opportunity to be on the forefront of many of these applications, and we strive to prove to manufacturers all over the country just how important advancements in STEM are in maintaining our nation’s high standards for workplace safety.
Manufacture at a Competitive Pace
In addition to making manufacturing work safer, STEM advancements are also keeping U.S. manufacturing competitive with other manufacturing powerhouses like China, Japan, and India. Energy-saving technological solutions not only promote greater sustainability, they also increase efficiency of overall production, and lower the cost of operations for U.S. manufacturers willing to invest in them3. However, the benefits don’t stop there. Aside from enhancing efficiency and reducing waste, STEM advancements have also been integral in providing digital tools that perfect, streamline, and speed up manufacturing processes4. As a result, STEM professionals are succeeding in keeping the industry alive by helping American manufacturers to reduce overhead costs and increase output, and ensuring that re-shoring continues in an often shaky global economy.
This is why encouraging the growth of STEM is so vital to U.S. manufacturing, and ought to be a major focus during Manufacturing Month. For more information on how advancements in STEM could benefit your operation, contact us, and one of our own STEM professionals will guide you in the right direction.